President Woodrow Wilson himself urged Congress to reconsider whether very high tax rates are in fact "productive of revenue" to the government. He said that, beyond some point, "high rates of income and profits taxes discourage energy, remove the incentive to new enterprise, encourage extravagant expenditures, and produce industrial stagnation with consequent unemployment and other attendant evils." That sounds a lot like where we are today.
Both Democratic and Republican presidents once warned that high tax rates can reduce economic growth. And Secretaries of the Treasury under both Democratic and Republican administrations once pointed out that higher tax rates do not necessarily bring in more tax revenues than lower tax rates. Yet this lesson from more than 90 years ago has still not been learned by those who advocate higher taxes on "the rich" as the answer to our fiscal problems.
In today's global economy, it is even easier for genuine millionaires and billionaires to escape high tax rates by investing in other countries. Not so for the other nine-tenths of the people hit with higher tax rates, such as small business owners or independent professionals such as dentists or realtors, whose sources of income are necessarily local.
Those hardest hit by high tax rates that drive jobs overseas are likely to be those who are unemployed and need jobs here. Ironically, millionaires and billionaires may have the least to lose from higher tax rates on "the rich." But Barack Obama has the most to gain from class warfare rhetoric that wins votes from gullible people.